Bright lights, smart city: introducing intelligent lighting to Manchester

Light plays an important part in city life. Picture your favourite city scene, and it’ll probably involve a skyline twinkling and glowing in the dark.

Lighting makes it possible for us to go about in the night as we would in the day. But we don’t often think about how much we rely on it.

In the UK alone it’s estimated that there are 7.5 million street lights, not counting lights on buildings, shop fronts or traffic lights.

But illuminating all these lights can be hugely expensive and energy-consuming. And it’s inefficient; sometimes street lamps are switched on even though the road is quiet and there’s nobody around.

This problem is one that’s being addressed by CityVerve as Cisco, Holophane and Tvilight collaborate to bring a new smart lighting system to Manchester’s parking spaces.

Lighting the way for every individual

A new type of LED luminaire called the ‘V-MAX’ is being installed across the Manchester Science Partnerships central campus.

The Holophane V-Max lights are fitted with “tin can” communication nodes and motion-sensing streetlight controllers from Tvilight.

The sensors in Tvilight CitySense controllers split the area around them into 4 cones. In each separate cone it identifies motion and responds by increasing the brightness of the corresponding light.

This generates a ‘bubble of light’ effect, in which lights are turned up in time with a person’s progress along their route.

The space in front of you will be lit just before you get to it; equally, the space behind you will be dimmed as you move further from it (thought you won’t have to walk into darkness and you won’t leave darkness directly behind you).

This is a nicer experience for citizens who are out at night – nobody likes stumbling around after their eyes have been exposed to a sudden switch from light to dark – and it allows us to reduce energy consumption, since lights that don’t detect any motion they can sit at a lower, pre-programmed brightness.

The V-MAX lighting technology is award-winning: it won the Queen’s Award for enterprise in innovation 2017.

And most importantly, it’s an industry standard connector for UK and North America – meaning it’ll be easy to extend this smart lighting technique across the globe.

Shedding light on a unique solution

This form of smart lighting is unlike any other that has previously been deployed, since it can be fitted retroactively.

This means that it can be deployed in areas that have already been built. You don’t have to start from scratch to include the V-Max; you can add it to pre-existing urban landscapes.

This means it’s possible to implement smart lighting across city streets that have been around for years, which is a far more cost-effective means for delivering smart lighting at scale.

Equally, the design of the light itself and the way it illuminates the street is completely unique.

The sensor works across four cones, while most other sensors will only operate on one. This enables a fluid bubble of light to follow citizens as they make their way through communal spaces at night, instead of flashing on and off.

The sensor also has motion compensation so that it won’t be triggered by wind, moving tree branches, or animals. These and other similar interferences are filtered out, and the smart sensors will only respond to human presence.

Smart lighting brings benefits

There are many benefits to implementing smart lighting solutions.

The cost savings are obvious. By reducing the amount of time the lights are on at full beam, you can save vast amounts of money.

This financial saving is accompanied by serious energy-savings. Less electricity is required to power dimmed lights; equally, this protects local residents from high levels of light pollution.

And these savings are balanced with the social aspect of city lighting.

People still feel safe to walk about at night – in fact, they can have a much more pleasant experience when they do, since the bubble of light won’t disorientate them by flashing between darkness and light.

Finally, the Tvilight CityManager software that underpins this smart lighting project can be used to identify heat maps where lighting is particularly important or heavily used.

Local councils or entrepreneurs can make use of this data as they design new initiatives to improve our city. And improving our city, of course, is ultimately what CityVerve is all about.

All in all, it’s clear that introducing smart lighting is an important step in building a better city. You could even say that it’s Manchester’s light bulb moment.

April 11, 2018 in News

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